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Anim Genet. 2012 Jul;43 Suppl 1:65-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2052.2012.02350.x.

Genome-wide association study identifies candidate markers for bull fertility in Holstein dairy cattle.

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Department of Animal Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1675 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The decline in the reproductive efficiency of dairy cattle has become a challenging problem worldwide. Female fertility is now taken into account in breeding goals while generally less attention is given to male fertility. The objective of this study was to perform a genome-wide association study in Holstein bulls to identify genetic variants significantly related to sire conception rate (SCR), a new phenotypic evaluation of bull fertility. The analysis included 1755 sires with SCR data and 38,650 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning the entire bovine genome. Associations between SNPs and SCR were analyzed using a mixed linear model that included a random polygenic effect and SNP genotype either as a linear covariate or as a categorical variable. A multiple testing correction approach was used to account for the correlation between SNPs because of linkage disequilibrium. After genome-wide correction, eight SNPs showed significant association with SCR. Some of these SNPs are located close to or in the middle of genes with functions related to male fertility, such as the sperm acrosome reaction, chromatin remodeling during the spermatogenesis, and the meiotic process during male germ cell maturation. Some SNPs showed marked dominance effects, which provide more evidence for the relevance of non-additive effects in traits closely related to fitness such as fertility. The results could contribute to the identification of genes and pathways associated with male fertility in dairy cattle.

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